DUNEDIN, Fla. - Conor Jackson and Steve Pearce basically are competing for the same job this spring, along with a handful of other players who fit a similar profile - right-handed bat off the bench who can play first base, left field and serve as the designated hitter.
Jackson reached on an infield hit in the top of the second inning today and scored on Pearce’s two-run homer to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Neither player is backing down.
Jackson is 6-for-17 with two homers, five RBIs and six runs scored this spring. Pearce is 5-for-9 with two homers and eight RBIs.
Both of Pearce’s home runs have been hit in Dunedin.
Jackson sent a scorching ground ball to short, where Mike McCoy made a nice backhanded stop before unleashing a high throw to first base. Pearce followed with a towering fly ball to left that kept carrying until it cleared the fence.
Steve Johnson, making his first start this spring, walked leadoff hitter Anthony Gose on four pitches. Gose stole second, moved to third on Emilio Bonifacio’s bunt single and scored on Melky Cabrera’s grounder to short.
Johnson struck out the next two batters on pitches clocked at 89 and 82 mph and finished the inning with his count at 26, including 14 strikes.
Andy LaRoche homered with one out in the second inning to tie the score, 2-2. Johnson threw 16 pitches, 11 for strikes. Two infield pop ups ended the inning.
Johnson allowed two runs and two hits, walked one and struck out two. He threw 42 pitches, 25 for strikes. The Blue Jays stole two bases off him in the first inning, though catcher Luis Exposito double-clutched on both of them.
Jair Jurrjens is warming in the Orioles’ bullpen.
Update: Jackson doubled off the left-field fence in the fourth inning, making him 7-for-18 this spring.
The Orioles hit into three double plays in the first three innings. Exposito tagged on Manny Machado’s fly ball to center in the third inning and was thrown out at third base.
Jurrjens has thrown two scoreless innings so far, walking one batter and striking out two. His fastball routinely has hit 90 mph, and it reached 91 mph in the fourth against LaRoche, who eventually struck out looking to end the inning.
Jurrjens has thrown 26 pitches, 17 for strikes. He’ll return for the fifth inning.
So far, it’s a big improvement over his last outing, when he allowed three runs (two earned) and two hits, with three walks, in one inning against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers.
Alexi Casilla is 3-for-3 today. He went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in his first game in Dunedin this spring.
Nolan Reimold is 0-for-3. He struck out to end the fifth, stranding two runners.
Update II: Jurrjens never got the last out in the fifth inning. The last five batters reached against him on a walk, triple and three straight singles. Jurrjens was charged with three runs and five hits in 2 2/3 innings, with two walks and two strikeouts. He threw 52 pitches, 35 for strikes.
I’ll pass along his quotes in the next blog entry.
Jackson and Pearce hit back-to-back homers in the sixth - seriously - and Luis Exposito added a two-run shot in the inning to give the Orioles a 6-5 lead. All of the homers came off Esmil Rogers.
Notes: Nick Markakis told manager Buck Showalter that he could have played yesterday if it were the regular season. However, he’s not going to play Wednesday against Team Spain. Showalter wants to give him an extra day for the neck stiffness to subside.
Most of the regulars will remain out of the lineup for the game against Spain.
“You’ll see a similar lineup to the one I have here today,” Showalter said.
Catcher Taylor Teagarden’s lower back is feeling better, according to Showalter.
Catcher Luis Martinez, who’s been shut down with a strained left oblique, was scheduled to hit today.
Showalter said he will “slow things down” with a few players to avoid having them hit the proverbial wall during this extended spring training. For example, Matt Wieters will catch one day and take two days off, catch one day and take two days off.